EU agrees to reopen external borders to fully vaccinated tourists

It also relaxes the criteria for being on the list of third countries with access to Europe with the UK and the US in mind

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A group of tourists stroll through the center of Barcelona

BrusselsVaccination will boost the tourist season. The ambassadors of the 27 European Union governments agreed on Wednesday to reopen external borders to fully vaccinated tourists or travellers. The measure is especially designed for third countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, where vaccination is already advanced and has been carried out with drugs that have also been approved by the European Union. Therefore, these tourists will be allowed entry as long as they have received the full course of immunisation 14 days before the trip (ie, with two doses in most cases).

Until now, any travel considered non-essential from outside the EU bloc was prohibited (with the exception of a short list of countries), but in early May the European Commission proposed to relax the criteria in order to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and, consequently, changes to epidemiological situations. Thus, this Wednesday, in addition to giving access to Europe to fully vaccinated people, this criterion is also relaxed. If until now permits were only given for travellers coming from areas with an incidence of less than 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the Commission asked to raise the threshold to 100 cases and Wednesday's agreement would finally establish a limit of 75 cases per 100,000 inhabitants according to Europa Press. Currently, the list only includes countries such as Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China, which have a better epidemiological situation than the European average.

Thus, the way is cleared so that British tourists can begin to reach their most common European destinations, among which is Spain, although Europe is waiting for London to act reciprocally. It must be said that border management is the responsibility of each state, which may or may not establish bilateral agreements in this regard. However, Wednesday's ambassadors agreement hoped to unify criteria and act jointly to avoid border chaos. What is left to the decision of each European government is whether it also allows entry of fully vaccinated tourists who received drugs not approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) but validated by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Not the end of PCRs

It is important to stress that this does not mean the end of PCR testing or quarantines. Whether vaccinated or not, travellers from third countries will have to comply with the entry requirements of each country and this is another of the great debates linked to the creation of the digital certificate of vaccination, which is under negotiation and on which an agreement is also expected this week. In this sense, countries like Spain have already advanced that they will not require tests or quarantines for vaccinated tourists, whether they are European or not, but the position is not shared by all governments. This Thursday there will be a new round of negotiations on the digital certificate between MEPs and governments. MEPs are calling for vaccination to be exempted from quarantine and for EU funds to be used to make PCRs cheaper to avoid discrimination between those who are immunised and those who are not.

In addition to all this, an emergency brake would be activated to tighten restrictions again in the event of a new outbreak or the appearance of a new variant that worsens the epidemiological situation of a country. Wednesday's ambassadorial-level agreement is pending a final green light from European ministers later this week and would come into force as soon as it is published in the European Union's official gazette. The announcement comes on the same day that the EU has reached the threshold of 200 million vaccines administered, meaning that around 40% of European adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine